Albany County almost always has been an important center providing
goods and services, and has exercised an importance in state and
national affairs beyond all proportion to its size. In this grantfunded
project, "World Our Fathers Made", can be seen our local
manifestations of the concerns for human services and public needs
not too different from those shared by Albany County today.
In this case, shown in this guide to the public records of our
communities, the past is truly prologue.
James J. Coyne
Albany County Executive
Over the past three centuries and more, several dozen people
have served as Albany County Clerk, the clerk of record for one
of America's oldest communities, in one of New York's original
Charter counties. While these people helped to shape the region's
history, and often were important functionaries, it was the records
themselves which provided the continuity. In a time of great flux
and change such as the Constitutional Era, this records-keeping
function creates the administrative portrait of the times, showing
why decisions were made and who our people were. To the all but
anonymous County and Town Clerks of two hundred years ago,
we owe a great debt. Their safeguarding of these documents
allows us to see the Albany County of their time once again.
To this guide, "World Our Fathers Made", the scholars and
educators of tomorrow will owe a debt nearly as great,
as we seek to understand the turbulent birth of our nation
as it was felt in the County of Albany two centuries ago.
Hon. Thomas G. Clingan
Albany County Clerk
First and foremost I would like to thank Bob Arnold, former Executive
Director of the Albany County Hall of Records, former County Historian,
and director of this project. His enthusiasm boosted my own when
obstacles were encountered; his reading and rereading of drafts along
with his knowledge of the area's local history, saved this guide from
efforts otherwise overlooked. I would also like to thank the Hall of
Record's present Executive Director, Mary F. Vines, for her patient
editing and her direction in preparing this guide for publication.
To the archives staff at the Hall of Records - Meredith
Cherven-Holland, Cari R. Palmer, Jeanenne Paquin, and Helen
Chmielewski - I owe a great debt for familiarizing me with their
archival policies and for their assistance in organizing the records
survey. I would like to express my gratitude to the participants of the
"World Our Father's Made" conference. Their intellect and concerns
served as a guide for the direction this survey would follow. Those
participants were Dr. Thomas Burke, Hon. Robert J. Bums, Ms.
Meredith Cherven-HoUand, Dr. James Folts, Dr. Maryanne Malecki,
Mrs. Rose-Marie Manory, Hon. Edita Probst, Hon. Herbert Reilly, Ms.
Valerie J. Restifo, Hon. Jane Springer, Mr. John Tmvis, and Ms.
Cari R. Palmer. I would like to single out Dr. James Folts of the New
York State Archives and express thanks for his invaluable guidance
and review of the Court Records section. I would like to thank Mrs.
Marie Wiedeman of the Bethlehem Historical Society for taking an
afternoon and introducing me to the society's collection of local history.
I would also like to- extend appreciation to Ms. Jane Springer,
Guilderland Town Clerk; Mr. Paul S. Murphy, City Clerk of Watervliet;
Ms. Carolyn M. Lyons, Bethlehem Town Clerk; and Ms. Kathleen Newkirk
and Ms. Gloria Johnson of the Bethlehem Town Clerk's office for their
time and efforts in making available their
respective town records.
Tracy B. Grimm
WHO WERE WE THEN?
Who were the people of Albany County during the nation's infancy.
How did they make their livings, indeed, where did they live,
what services did they require, what alterations in their environment
did they make? What chattels or real properties did they own?
How do we know the rise or decline of their fortunes, the nature and
result of their adversities, the roads they walked, the oxen they drove,
the feral hogs they ran unringed? The flavor of their lives is in
the public records of the era, now two centuries remote.
While we cannot imagine the relative silence or comparative isolation
of their world, or fully understand the cultures in which they were
formed, their public records reflect their needs, their hopes, and their
reality; these records reflect the world our fathers made. A guide to
the public records of the Constitutional Era - here defined as 1783-1815
- has not been attempted on the local level before; these records are
broad strokes on the canvas eventually depicting that time and give rise
to our present. With funding from the New York State Commission on the
Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, with the support of County
Executive James J. Coyne, the Albany County Committee on the
Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, the Hudson-Mohawk Institute
of the College of Saint Rose, the Albany County Hall of Records, the
Albany County Historian's Office, and, of course, Albany's County Clerks,
past and present, Guy Paquin and Thomas G.. Clingan, this guide was
created. Special accolade is also due to Tracy Grimm, an intern from
the College of Saint Rose hired with State Bicentennial commission
funds to produce this guide. Its high quality is all but entirely due to
Robert W. Arnold III
November 17, 1988
While the nation's leaders were occupied with adjusting to the
new Constitution, the government of the County of Albany and the
local governments of its municipalities were occupied with meeting
the growing needs of their citizens. The Constitutional Era was a time
of expansion and internal development for the County of Albany.
As the population of the county increased, so did the partitioning of its
townships. The formation of townships and their local governments
provided organization to allow these communities to develop
accommodations for their individual, local needs. Roads and highways
were planned and built in response to the petitions of groups of citizens
to their local boards of Highway Commissioners. The rural communities
of Albany County as well as the city of Albany were dependent upon
their local governments for organization and implementation of their
civil futures. The existing records of this period in the County's history
are today held by the Albany County Hall of Records,the County Clerk,
Town Clerks, local historical societies, the Office of Public Records of
the City of Albany, and the New York State Archives and Records
Administration. It is from the collections of these repositories that this
survey was compiled. As with any historical study or survey,, limitations
to the scope of this study were established due to restrictions of budget,
time and focus. "World Our Fathers Made" is a survey of public records,
records which a government unit generates or keeps, created during
the Constitutional Era. The era has been defined as the period of
1783-1815. In accordance with this limitation, only those towns of
Albany County whose dates of establishment precede 1815 have
been included in this guide.